Fluoride Hypersensitivity

Some individuals are hypersensitive to fluoride.  According to the Physician’s Desk Reference:

“In hypersensitive individuals, fluorides occasionally cause skin eruptions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema or urticaria. Gastric distress, headache and weakness have also been reported. These hypersensitivity reactions usually disappear promptly after discontinuation of the fluoride.” 

Hypersensitive reactions have been reported for both topical fluorides (e.g., toothpaste) and systemic fluorides (e.g., fluoride supplements and fluoridated water). 

Hypersensitive Reactions to Systemic Fluorides: 
  • In the 1950s, the renowned allergist George Waldbott discovered that some individuals are hypersensitive to ingested fluoride. In a series of case reports and double-blind studies, Waldbott and other doctors found that relatively small doses of ingested fluoride, including the consumption of fluoridated water, could induce side effects that would quickly reverse after ceasing fluoride exposure. Consistent with Waldbott’s research, the largest ever government-funded clinical trial of fluoride supplements reported that one percent of the children taking the 1 mg fluoride tablets exhibited hypersensitive reactions. Read more.
  • More recently, a Finnish study found that the rate of skin rashes in a city population decreased significantly within months of the city terminating its water fluoridation program.  Although the authors were generally skeptical that fluoridated water could cause harm, they noted that: 

“the significant decrease in the number of other skin rashes leaves room for speculation, seeming to favor the view that a small segment of the population may have some kind of intolerance to fluoride. This group of people should be studied further. The most frequently reported symptoms that disappeared from the time of actual to known discontinuation of fluoridation seemed to be itching and dryness of the skin.”
SOURCE: Lamberg M, et al. (1997). Symptoms experienced during periods of actual and supposed water fluoridation. Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology 25(4):291-5. 

Hypersensitive Reactions to Topical Fluorides:
  • Studies have documented adverse skin reactions from the use of topical fluoride products, including toothpaste. These skin reactions include perioral dermatitis, stomatitis, and urticaria. Although many dermatologists now consider fluoride toothpaste to be a common cause of perioral dermatitis, the dental community has remained conspicuously silent on the issue, and has conducted virtually no research. Read more
  • The possibility that topical fluorides can provoke inflammtory skin disorders gains is supported by carefully controlled studies on animals. When topical fluoride has been applied to the skin of rabbits or rats, inflammation has been repeatedly noted when the skin is cut or damaged prior to the application. Read more

Acute Fluoride Toxicity

At high doses, fluoride is a potent poison that is almost on par with arsenic. Fluoride’s potency explains why it was used for years as a rodenticide (to kill rodents) and why it is still being used as a pesticide (to kill bugs). It also explains why the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that all fluoride toothpastes sold in the United States carry the following warning:

“WARNING: If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”

Poisonings from Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpastes carry a poison warning for good reason. A tube of fluoride toothpaste, including bubble-gum flavored varieties with child-friendly cartoon characters on the packaging, has enough fluoride to kill an average-weighing child under the age of 9. 

While fatalities from toothpaste ingestion are rare, poisoning incidents are not. A young child can receive an “acutely toxic” dose of fluoride (the dose capable of inducing toxic responses such as gastric pain, nausea, or headache) by ingesting a mere 1 gram of fluoridated paste. A gram of toothpaste is roughly the equivalent of one strip of paste covering an ordinary child’s brush.

Each year there are over 20,000 calls to Poison Control Centers as a result of excessive ingestion of fluoride toothpaste. Hundreds of these reports result in emergency treatment at a medical facility. 

Many poisoning incidents from fluoride toothpaste, however, likely go unreported. This is because the symptoms caused by acute fluoride ingestion mimic common gastrointestinal problems. A parent of a child suffering acute fluoride toxicity, therefore, may not realize that bubble gum- or fruit-flavored toothpaste was the culprit. As noted in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry: 

“Parents or caregivers may not notice the symptoms associated with mild fluoride toxicity or may attribute them to colic or gastroenteritis, particularly if they did not see the child ingest fluoride. Similarly, because of the nonspecific nature of mild to moderate symptoms, a physician’s differential diagnosis is unlikely to include fluoride toxicity without a history of fluoride ingestion.” 

Poisonings from Water Fluoridation Accidents

When U.S. health authorities endorsed water fluoridation in the early 1950s, they assured the public that it was “clearly impossible” for a water fluoridation accident to cause any harm. According to Dr. Harold Hodge, the leading promoter of water fluoridation in the 1950s:

“Sometimes the question is raised, what would happen if there were a mechanical breakdown at the fluoridation plant and all of one day’s supply of sodium fluoride or sodium silicofluoride were suddenly dumped into the water? If this large weight of fluoride could be dissolved, mixed and distributed within an hour, there would still be a factor of safety sufficient to predict that the water could be drunk for ten years or more without serious toxic consequences… it is clearly impossible to produce acute fluoride poisoning by water fluoridation.”

As with many other assurances made by the early fluoridation promoters, experience has shown this claim to be incorrect, and fatally so. Over the past 30 years, there have been dozens of water fluoridation accidents where toxic levels of fluoride are dumped into water as a result of malfunctioning equipment. While early fluoridation promoters claimed that such water could be “drunk for ten years or more without serious toxic consequences,” experience has repeatedly shown that people suffer acute poisoning within hours, with symptoms including burning gastric pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headache, weakness, and other fever-like symptoms. Some people have died within days, including dialysis patients in both Chicago and Annapolis, Maryland

See also:
  • FDA Health Alert on dangers posed to dialysis patients during a fluoridation accident.